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The Time Traders (Time Traders/ Ross Murdock, #1)
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2016 Reads > TTT: This was... slightly disappointing (Full Spoilers)

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message 1: by Anne (new)

Anne Schüßler (anneschuessler) | 843 comments Finished it last night and boy, if that wasn't some of the slowest 150 pages I ever had to drag myself through.

Somehow it just didn't click with me, and I'm trying to find out why that was. For one it felt more like a draft than a book. Somewhere along the middle, Norton lost me jumping through scenes and settings at a wild pace and just when you understood where you were, there you were somewhere else.

I also felt that the descriptions lacked something. Especially in the Russian village in the past I wasn't quite sure where Ross was supposed to be. The setting seemed to be too advanced for the time and it took me a while to figure out why that was, but somehow I felt being left alone with the confusion, not because the author wanted me to be confused, but more like she forgot to provide me with the necessary information to understand what was happening.

It also got slightly annoying with the same thing happening over and over and over again. Get captured, escape, get captured, escape, get captured, escape again. Add to that some deus-ex-machinaey plot devices and somehow there wasn't a lot of suspense left.

I really wanted to like the book, it being a classic and written by a woman, but I failed (or the book failed, that would be up for discussion). Can someone enlighten me as to the background of the book? It feels like it should have some place in the long row of SF/F classics and should probably be read with a little more information on its meaning for the genre.

As a stand-alone book read in 2016 it lacks too many things, so maybe it is better understood with some historical context.


message 2: by Colin (new)

Colin Forbes (colinforbes) | 517 comments Sadly, I find myself agreeing with most of that assessment.

I didn't think that Murdock was very well characterised - but with the book being so short perhaps we just haven't had enough time to get to know him. I think I prefer my heroes to be a bit more cerebral though.


Kristina | 588 comments I really enjoyed the book and flew through it..though I agree about that middle part at the Russian base feeling muddled. I was also really disappointed that it turned out to be aliens and not actually a prehistoric advanced civilization. That would have been sooo much cooler!


Brendan (mistershine) | 930 comments Yeah this book was very medium. I'll try to write a post about what I did enjoy about it, because there was something, but it wasn't an all-star.


message 5: by Anne (new)

Anne Schüßler (anneschuessler) | 843 comments It was also a bit frustrating, because I thought "Wow, only 150 pages! I'm going to blast through this!"

And then it felt more like "Another five pages? Really? This is taking forever!" It felt like a lot longer than most of the 300 page books I have read in the past months.

I mostly finished it because it was so short that I would have felt stupid not finishing it. On the other hand, had the book had 300 pages, maybe the story would have allowed for more details and character building and I would have liked it more.

That way it felt more like: "Okay, here's the story, I'm just going to write it down real quick and then we can later work out the details." Only they never got to the details part. "Oh, f**k it, we're just going to publish it now."


message 6: by AndrewP (new)

AndrewP (andrewca) | 2534 comments For the first time ever the majority of the Orange County meetup group gave a book the thumbs down. :(


MrsJoseph *grouchy* (mrsjoseph) Wow. This makes me soooo sad. I'm a huge Norton fan (mostly of her WW series) but I kinda dabble in her SF works, too.

I think that Norton's style just hasn't translated well with more modern readers. She writes with very particular wording and she's very research heavy so I have to think this makes a big difference to modern readers. :(


Brendan (mistershine) | 930 comments MrsJoseph wrote: "She writes with very particular wording and she's very research heavy so I have to think this makes a big difference to modern readers. :( "

That's quite rude to modern readers, I think? The historical research was actually my favourite part of the book, and what bumped it up from "bad" to "passable." Perhaps the issue is that "modern readers" require characters with more depth and diversity than Competent Roguish Man and Competent By-the-book Man.


MrsJoseph *grouchy* (mrsjoseph) Brendan wrote: "That's quite rude to modern readers, I think? The historical research was actually my favourite part of the book, and what bumped it up from "bad" to "passable." Perhaps the issue is that "modern readers" require characters with more depth and diversity than Competent Roguish Man and Competent By-the-book Man. "

Sorry you feel that way. It wasn't intentional...but those are the major differences between Norton and more modern writers and I tend to find a little more depth in her characters than you. I hope you no longer feel offended.


message 10: by Phil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Phil | 1171 comments I know a lot of people grew up on Norton the way I did on Heinlein but I've only read a few of hers as an adult and been a little underwhelmed with her writing. I do find her plots interesting though. I did enjoy Galactic Derelict a bit more than TT but maybe that was because of the different POV character with Murdock just along for the ride.
I'd still like to read one or two of her Witch World books someday as that's what she's best know for.


message 11: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 4215 comments Much as there is to love about Andre Norton as a popular writer of the day and pioneering female author, strong plot is not among them. This book does not really finish so much as chop off. The rest of the books in the series have great ideas but don't really finish. I had the same issue with the Witch World books. Still worth a read, but not tightly plotted.


message 12: by Serendi (new)

Serendi | 848 comments I'd read a few Nortons back in the day and didn't get into them. I listened to this one first (one of the LibriVox recordings) and SAILED through; then I decided to go back and read it because I knew I missed stuff (I'd get distracted and not backtrack), and the text version puts me to sleep.

I'm considering trying other LibriVox Norton books just for the heck of it.


message 13: by Sean (new)

Sean | 355 comments Glad I'm not the only one who wasn't all that impressed with this pick. I didn't think it was bad, per se (I've certainly read worse), but it did feel like the longest 150 pages I've ever read.

I think my biggest problem was the pacing. Characters seem to jump from Point A to Point D without passing through Points B and C first. I started to notice this with the Russian spy character near the beginning. Ross determining that he was a spy seemed to come out of nowhere. Same thing whenever the characters traveled from place to place.

And then there was the random amnesia bit. Why was that there?

In all, I agree with the sentiment that this feels more like a first draft than a complete novel. I'd love to see some Cold War-esque time travel adventure, but there's just not enough meat to this book. And even though the ebook copy came packaged with the second book, I have no real interest in reading the sequel.


Jessica (j-boo) | 322 comments Boy, it was a chore to force my way through this.

I've read Norton's fantasy before and liked some of it. And at first I was going to explain my dislike for the way this book was written with the evolution of common writing styles over the last 60 years, but then I realized that Alfred Bester's The Stars my Destination was published just one year before this, and that book blew me away. It was more literary fiction, while this one was more pulp, but still, the style of writing could not have been more different.

The premise of TT had some fun elements, but I felt like I was reading through a long list of events In chronological order. I didn't think there was any real storytelling, no emotional connections, and a lot of overblown descriptions telling us how Murdock was feeling and what things he encountered were like without, instead, SHOWING us.

Basically I had to skim through this, and most of what I took away was the main character brawling and getting taken captive over and over and over again. That's enough, thanks!


message 15: by Tassie Dave, S&L Historian (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tassie Dave | 3658 comments Mod
I'm surprised those who think it dragged. It was over so quickly for me.
I like it enough to read Books 2, 3 & 4 in the series.

Book 2 is a better story. (Space Travel, Alien Worlds, Alien creatures both friendly and hostile, alien technology)

Book 3 was ok, but surprisingly had no time travel. It was more about brain conditioning 2 distinct cultures (Mongols and Apaches) to be able to live on a distant world as their ancestors lived. Enjoyable.

Book 4 was the worst of the 4. Alien Vikings v Alien witches v Aliens from Book 1. Not as cool as it sounds.

My ratings:
Book 1 : 2.5 Stars
Book 2: 3 Stars
Book 3: 2.5 Stars
Book 4: 1.5 Stars


message 16: by Buzz (new) - rated it 4 stars

Buzz Park (buzzpark) | 354 comments I actually really liked this book. It was a pleasant surprise to me. It wasn't that hard to overlook the dated timing, references to Reds, etc and I found I enjoyed the story.

Generally speaking, I am NOT a fan of time-travel books but have forced myself to read the S&L pics (this one and Time and Again) because it is out of my norm. (I am also generally not a fan of scifi books written in the 50's and 60's.) However, both time travel books have been pleasant surprises and delightful changes of pace.

I liked this book enough that I might look into some more Andre Norton title. I'm embarrassed to say that this was my first. :-)

Thank you S&L for expanding my horizons.


message 17: by Robert (new)

Robert | 33 comments I got to agree to with most folks here who thought this book dragged on. When I got to the 90% mark on my kindle and went to update Goodreads I was astounded to see that this was only a 150 pg book because it felt like I'd been slogging through it.

I think what I'm missing is a connection to characters and a reason to care about whether they're going to live or die other than the fact that they're the main characters.

On the plus side, the idea that people are born not necessarily best suited for the time they're in is an idea that really appeals to me and I wish that aspect would've been explored a little more.


message 18: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 4215 comments When I read this, a year or two ago, I was struck by the attention to detail for the sequences set in the past. That really made it feel real. But the ending really didn't bring it together for me. I'm thinking this book sold on the strength of the time travel sequences.


message 19: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 4211 comments I liked the start. I felt that it started slowing at about the half-way/two-thirds mark. But I liked it overall.


message 20: by Geir (new) - rated it 4 stars

Geir (makmende) I also loved the start, it has a bit of that old-timey feeling and made me curious to see what would happen. When we started getting into the more action-filled parts I started getting restless though, I didn't feel they were that well written.

Overall quite enjoyable though.


message 21: by AndrewP (new)

AndrewP (andrewca) | 2534 comments I finished 'Galactic Derelict'. If you can get through the first few chapters of ham fisted new character introduction it's a much better book.


message 22: by Tassie Dave, S&L Historian (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tassie Dave | 3658 comments Mod
AndrewP wrote: "I finished 'Galactic Derelict'. If you can get through the first few chapters of ham fisted new character introduction it's a much better book."

I agree.
If you like the main character Travis, Book 3 is him without Ashe or Ross. I enjoyed it. Though it isn't a time travel book.


message 23: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Knighton | 158 comments AndrewP wrote: "I finished 'Galactic Derelict'. If you can get through the first few chapters of ham fisted new character introduction it's a much better book."

I agree. I quite enjoyed the first book, but found its style hadn't aged well. This second one is more interesting, and it's cool to see how she uses the premise to tell a very different sort of story.

While I haven't been overwhelmed by these books, I've never felt like they dragged. They haven't kept me desperately returning for more at the end of every chapter, but the historical stuff was interesting, as is the Cold War element.

The plot of the first one feels very aimless, with the protagonist reacting to events rather than proactively following an agenda. In a longer book that would have bothered me, but for something this short I was interested to see a structure that was less like a story and more like how people cope with real life.


Scott | 312 comments Personally, I was enjoying it up to the point where the "ship people" showed up. It felt like the last 1/3 or so was suddenly written by Giorgio Tsaokalos. I almost got the feeling that an editor somewhere told Norton "this is (1950's era pulp) Sci-Fi so you need aliens!"


message 25: by Joanna Chaplin (new)

Joanna Chaplin | 1175 comments AndrewP wrote: "I finished 'Galactic Derelict'. If you can get through the first few chapters of ham fisted new character introduction it's a much better book."

Wait, that was a different book, and not part 2 of the first? Oops. *pages through her copy, gets her bearings* Turns out that I liked the first book just fine. But in Galactic Derelict the main characters lose agency at one point and everything past that was increasingly difficult for me to read.


message 26: by Adam (new)

Adam Gutschenritter (heregrim) | 114 comments Time Traders felt chunky, like there was a lot going on outside the scope of the main character that always just managed to save him. It was the always that annoyed me. Still the historical depth struck me and I found I enjoyed the history while not particularly caring for the characters and story. Onto Galactic Derelict which if chapter 1 is any indication the same outside force will be saving Travis...


message 27: by Julian (new)

Julian Arce | 71 comments it was a chore to read. I think the author couldn't decide what to writw about. It starts as a time travel piece - go to a time period and pretend to be a local while looking for the commies... and then it morphed to an alien book that seemed to direct to a cat and mouse game of the aliens and Americans... only that the aliens couldn't be bothered to chase them. And then it changed yet again to a "galaxy cruise"... with only 3 planets and uninspiring aliens.

The characters seem to change too much from part 1 to 2. Ross starts as the rookie without experience... but in part 2 is suddendly the veteran of the alien encounter? the change in PoV is also baffling


message 28: by Phil (last edited Jul 15, 2016 05:16PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Phil | 1171 comments Julián wrote: "it was a chore to read. I think the author couldn't decide what to writw about. It starts as a time travel piece - go to a time period and pretend to be a local while looking for the commies... and..."

You read two different books that came in one bundle. The Time Traders was the first one and Galactic Derelict was the second. There are several other books in the series. I think someone said that Ross doesn't appear at all in the third.


message 29: by Julian (new)

Julian Arce | 71 comments Huh... didn't know that. In that case Book 1 is a bit more interesting... but it ends on a strange place


message 30: by Fredrik (last edited Jul 16, 2016 05:21AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Fredrik (fredurix) | 221 comments Yea, I didn't much care for it either. I appreciated the historical awareness of it, and the writing style is actually - once I grew used to it - pretty punchy. However, there no characters developed enough to drive the story, and neither were the stakes or the mystery interesting enough to make me invested in the plot. All I was left was descriptions of things happening, with no reason to care about any of it.
It picked up a bit by the end; my favorite part of it was the survivalist trek back to the sea, but that was really too little and too late to make a enough of a difference.


message 31: by Minsta (new)

Minsta | 106 comments LOL - I also read books one and two but I thought I was reading just the first book! I enjoyed the world building of the first book and the first half of the second book (i liked both the setting and the time travel) - it was the last half of the second book that I read fast just to find out how it would end. I think I would have enjoyed the last half of book two much more if the characters had stayed in one place and learned a lot more about where they were, who they met and more of the history/back story of the aliens they met in book one.


message 32: by Rick (last edited Jul 16, 2016 03:07PM) (new)

Rick | 2900 comments I'm not sure how seriously to take criticism from the people who didn't even realize they were reading two different books...

That said, TT itself felt like it had two distinct parts. The first, through (view spoiler) was good, I thought. No, it's not the (excessively) verbose stuff we get now, but it moved along from Murdock's recruitment to a defining moment. After that, it felt like there was too much coincidence (capture, escape, capture....) and the writing didn't keep me engaged. A serious flaw was that they didn't seem to have a plan for what to do if they did find the Russian base and realistically they should have.

I was thinking, as I read the first part, of Hamilton's Great North Road which took 2x as long as the entire novel to get to the point where they go to the other world. These are two VERY different ways of telling a story. One's a pencil sketch... quick outlines, enough to get the picture but few or no unneeded details. The other is a photorealist painting - every detail, even those that arguably don't matter.


message 33: by Sean (new)

Sean | 355 comments Rick wrote: "I'm not sure how seriously to take criticism from the people who didn't even realize they were reading two different books..."

Well, the Kindle version is only referred to as "Time Traders", not "Time Traders and Galactic Derelict". There's no indication anywhere that it's actually two books packaged as one. You'd only realize that if you look up information about the series elsewhere.


message 34: by Anne (new)

Anne Schüßler (anneschuessler) | 843 comments Yeah, I only realized it was two books because I knew it was supposed to have around 150 pages. If I hadn't known that I would have probably kept on reading the second part.


Fresno Bob | 593 comments Rick wrote: "I'm not sure how seriously to take criticism from the people who didn't even realize they were reading two different books...
."


Nice Burn!

I'm more stunned by how someone could think a sub 200pg book could "drag". I read the whole thing in under 90 minutes. Didn't particularly enjoy it, and I love time travel. The fact that "The Stars, My Destination" are only a year apart is mindboggling to me. Time Traders reminded me a lot of the old Heinlein juveniles.


message 36: by Sean (new)

Sean | 355 comments Fresno Bob wrote: "I'm more stunned by how someone could think a sub 200pg book could "drag". I read the whole thing in under 90 minutes. Didn't particularly enjoy it, and I love time travel. The fact that "The Stars, My Destination" are only a year apart is mindboggling to me. Time Traders reminded me a lot of the old Heinlein juveniles."

Well, the length of a book/movie/whatever has nothing to do with how fast the viewer perceives it to go - if you're bored out of your skull, it won't matter that it's short, because it will still feel long.

Also, I have to wonder if you really read it that fast, or if you just skimmed the book. I'm a bit skeptical at a claim of being able to read and properly absorb a book's contents when you're going through at least 1 and 2/3 pages every minute.

As for it feeling like something aimed at a YA/juvenile audience, I got the same feeling. I could have sworn I read somewhere that the series was aimed at a younger audience, but I can't seem to remember where.


message 37: by Rick (last edited Jul 18, 2016 06:37PM) (new)

Rick | 2900 comments Sean wrote: "Also, I have to wonder if you really read it that fast, or if you just skimmed the book. I'm a bit skeptical at a claim of being able to read and properly absorb a book's contents when you're going through at least 1 and 2/3 pages every minute.
..."


I'm not Fresno Bob, but I read about 300wpm sustained. That's about 1 page per minute, roughly. While not 90 minutes, it's only 2.5 hours.

I said this above but of course people jumped on 2 book thing and didn't bother to read the rest of the comment.... but TT feels like two books in itself. I don't see how anyone could really be bored up through the point where they complete their first mission. While it's not scintillating prose, the plot moves well and you can't really complain about getting bogged down in details. After that, the book devolves into catch and escape stuff which I felt wasn't convincing.


message 38: by C.M. (new) - rated it 3 stars

C.M. (carolynchang) | 1 comments Agree with what you wrote. At least you could finish it. I had to put it down for the last 25% or so. The whole middle I was skimming it. The plot got all windy and disruptive. In fact, I wasn't entirely sure what the protagonist's primary objective was which also made me lose focus (and interest.) A pity. I really wanted to like this one too.


message 39: by AndrewP (new)

AndrewP (andrewca) | 2534 comments I might have to revise my review. I'm currently reading Doomsday Book and in terms of time travel novels it's making TTT look like a masterwork :)


message 40: by Carrie (last edited Jul 19, 2016 10:42AM) (new)

Carrie | 29 comments I was excited to read this, because I thought I had read a lot of her stuff when I was a kid. I have no memory of having read this book before, and now I can't remember if I really had read anything by her, something with cat people??

As others note, the characterization was light, she listed a few things we should know about Ross, and told us he was special. And to be fair there was some character development when he chose which side to be loyal to, so there is that.

Really, I felt this would have made a good video game summary rather than a book. The character was sketched out lightly enough that it seemed like you could 'play' him, and the action would probably fit into a game too. But reading it was super boring and took me forever to get through. Didn't age well.


Fresno Bob | 593 comments Sean wrote: "Fresno Bob wrote: "I'm more stunned by how someone could think a sub 200pg book could "drag". I read the whole thing in under 90 minutes. Didn't particularly enjoy it, and I love time travel. The f..."

I read about 750 words a minute, left to right on line one, right to left on line 2, left to right on line 3.....

I really have to force myself to slow down for dense technical stuff (or poetry!) where my brain can't parse the backwards lines. Reading fast is one of my superpowers!


message 42: by Jen (new)

Jen | 227 comments Love Connie Willis.

AndrewP wrote: "I might have to revise my review. I'm currently reading Doomsday Book and in terms of time travel novels it's making TTT look like a masterwork :)"


Fredrik (fredurix) | 221 comments Carrie wrote: Really, I felt this would have made a good video game summary rather than a book. The character was sketched out lightly enough that it seemed like you could 'play' him, and the action would probably fit into a game too. But reading it was super boring and took me forever to get through. Didn't age well. "
Exactly, or it could have made a good movie or comic book, where visual storytelling is a strength.
It's not just a facet of age, though; there have been recent books I've been disappointed by for exactly the same reasons.


message 44: by Olga (new) - added it

Olga (meluse) | 24 comments I also thought there was not enough depth in the book, but then I accepted it and it was still fun to read.

What I don't understand: After the Russians attack their camp/village, why can't they go back in time and prevent that from happening? Or am I getting something wrong?


Fredrik (fredurix) | 221 comments Olga wrote: "What I don't understand: After the Russians attack their camp/village, why can't they go back in time and prevent that from happening? Or am I getting something wrong? ."
No, the rules/mechanics of time travel is not explained at all. Maybe their time portals are locked to a fixed point in time relative to their present time and can't be changed? I don't know, we'll just have to interpret it as we see fit.


message 46: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Knighton | 158 comments I assumed that the time portals were locked to specific points, a bit like in The Sage of the Exiles. Otherwise a lot of stuff didn't make sense.


message 47: by Olga (new) - added it

Olga (meluse) | 24 comments Fredrik wrote: "Maybe their time portals are locked to a fixed point in time relative to their present time and can't be changed?"

That makes sense...


message 48: by Robert (new)

Robert | 33 comments Andrew wrote: "I assumed that the time portals were locked to specific points, a bit like in The Sage of the Exiles. Otherwise a lot of stuff didn't make sense."

While I assumed that portals were locked to a specific geographical location, my reading of the time programs suggested that they could dial in different periods. This was based on them saying that the Russians were using different eras as staging periods to throw them off the trails which is why they had to train different teams to go to different times.

All this world building required me to kinda shut my brain off and just accept it as told because the potential paradoxes weren't explained, obvious uses of the tech weren't explored (e.g. what would happen if as soon as they discovered a new technology they went back in time and gave that tech to themselves basically ultra compressing their research time), the time travel rules/limits weren't explain, etc. I never really considered myself a hard sci-fi guy before, but I at least need some hand-waving explanations or it'll make me focus too much on what's not said rather than what is.


message 49: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 4215 comments My main problem with this series is that (view spoiler)


message 50: by Iain (new) - rated it 3 stars

Iain Bertram (iain_bertram) | 1503 comments This book struck me as a very simple adventure story. Quite similar to Biggles and the Hardy Boys. I.e,. simple straight forward action stories with research to give a flavour of the time travelled to.

Written quickly and designed to be read quickly.,


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